Planting the Seed

In the Gospels, Jesus uses various analogies to describe the exponential power of faith. A personal favorite of this writer is the grain of mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that grows into the biggest of trees.

On July 10 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and the Knights of Columbus planted a mustard seed. The modest turnout for the first annual Knights of Columbus Day, consisting in sum of a six-man honor guard from the Archbishop Williams Assembly, can be seen in this way.

The honor guard consisted of Knights from Agawam, Palmer, and Ware. Commander John Trela led the honor guard in full regalia. About 100 pilgrims attended on a day that began in heavy rain and ended in overcast humidity.

'Little Seeds Growing'
"The Knights of Columbus are everywhere, doing so much good work for the Church," said Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, at the start of his homily at the 2 p.m. Mass at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. "We are pleased to have the Knights here for a day or retreat and prayer."

Making reference to the light turnout, Fr. Anthony said, "It's OK. I'm used to little seeds growing. Let it grow! With God's help, it can grow larger than you can imagine."

In an interview prior to Mass, Fr. Robert Riel, Diocesan Liaison to the Knights of Columbus for the Diocese of Springfield, said his mission is to help the Knights rejuvenate their spiritual lives.

"Six months ago, Bishop [Timothy McDonnell, Bishop of Springfield] gave me this assignment, to remind [the Knights] of Fr. McGivney's mission," Fr. Riel said. He was referring to the Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. Father McGivney founded the Knights to give Catholic laymen a new avenue in which to grow in holiness in service to their families, parishes, and communities.

Since his appointment, Fr. Riel said he has visited each of the Knights' councils in the diocese. He sees his job as one of helping "reanimate" the men in their spiritual lives. He mentioned that since the 1950s, the culture's trend toward lack of spirituality and faith has to some degree affected the Knights, not just in membership but also in vitality.

"I try to show them the importance of their work to support parish priests throughout their communities," Fr. Riel said. "I counsel them to develop their prayer lives on a daily basis and also to attend Mass at least once a week. God gave us a whole lifetime. We can at least give him back a few moments."

It's Only Just Begun
Father Riel said his work has only begun. In this first phase, he is trying to "make myself visible, become known to the local councils, and lay the groundwork. I want them to know I am here for their spiritual welfare."

Knight Alberto Matus, from Council 1178 in Southwick, Mass., said he came because he loves coming to Eden Hill. He and his family have been making pilgrimages to the National Shrine for 20 years. He said he hoped the retreat day would bolster his faith and assist his work as one of the Knights of Columbus, which he called "the right hand of the Catholic Church."

In his homily, Fr. Anthony focused on children, noting the many references St. Faustina makes in her Diary to the Infant Jesus.

"The Child Jesus shows us the nature of true greatness," Fr. Anthony said. It doesn't come from momentous deeds, but through loving God and being humble.

He noted that children, by their very natures, are innocent and simple.

"Children are good," Fr. Anthony said. "Children can teach us what mercy is like. Children can teach us what loving God is like." He then mentioned the new Shrine of the Holy Innocents, located in the lower level of the outdoor shrine.

Subterranean Protection for Deceased Little Ones
Father Anthony said the Shrine if the Holy Innocents, still under construction though partially finished and available for worship, memorializes any child who has died, whether from abortion, miscarriage, illness, or any other cause. It is a place where parents can remember lost children and help heal from the loss by placing their children's names on a tile adorning the wall.

Commenting on the subterranean location, Fr. Anthony said the new shrine is hidden: "You can't see it. I asked God in prayer why. The answer He gave me - Because the Shrine of the Holy Innocents is the womb of the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. These children are safe here, in a sacred womb, under the protection of the Blessed Mother."

The Knights of Columbus has grown to more than 12,000 local units in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan. Over the past decade, Knights have raised and donated nearly $1 billion to charity and given nearly 400 million hours in humanitarian service.

The seed planted on Eden Hill on K of C Day will need watering, sunshine, and tender care. If these are given, as Fr. Riel says, "There's no telling how much good can come out of it."

Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal.

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